DIY Upholstered Headboard
It’s been a while since we’ve had the chance to share one of our DIY projects on the blog, but now that our major house projects are done and we’ve had the chance to begin to put each room back together piece by piece, we’re so excited to slowly share each of the projects we’ve tackled over the last few months!
It’s been an interesting and enlightening journey, filled with triumphs, tests of patience and of course, problems that left us both scratching our heads and wondering if said projects are worth it, but we’ve got to say that once we crossed the finish line, the home improvements and all that went into them were definitely worth it. Of course, not all of the projects we tackled on the house were DIYs, but the process of learning what each project required, who to go to, what questions to ask, what steps were involved and the all important question of how much each one would cost was so much like every DIY project we’ve ever taken on.
This particular upholstered headboard DIY was a really small part of our home overhaul and certainly didn’t take very long, but has actually been years in the making, with this headboard crossing the country and going through several transformations over its lifetime.
My mom actually bought this headboard at a furniture store in Michigan when my sister moved out of the condo we shared here in Phoenix to move in with her now husband (this was about 7 or 8 years ago), and I moved into the master bedroom and began living alone! The headboard was cracked in the back and therefor on major sale, and was black. That’s right – this bright white headboard was once jet black. But like she always does, my mom had a vision.
Somehow she saw this thing and knew it was exactly what I needed… which it was! So my dad kindly hauled it out here in a trailer along with a bunch of other items he was hauling to their house out here in Arizona, and my mom and I spray painted it white when it got here and my dad reinforced it in the back with a metal mending plate where the crack was. Then, my mom and I saw the most beautiful cotton shower curtain at Restoration Hardware with a pink ticking stripe, and again, she had a vision.
As you can see, the headboard has a sort of recessed rectangular spot in the middle of it that my mom thought was perfect for a padded and upholstered panel, and naturally, like moms always are, she was totally right. So we bought the shower curtain, measured the rectangular space on the headboard, got a piece of plywood and a large roll of foam padding and went to work. We secured a foam piece onto the plywood and then covered both with the fabric and voila, our padded headboard panel was ready to attach.
Luckily at that time, we had my dad the handyman attach our upholstered panel to the headboard by screwing it in, and it was one of my favorite things in my bedroom for so many years. And then I met Chris, he moved in, he never said a word about the abundance of pink décor in my house and that brings us to today.
When we started to think about the major overhauls we wanted to do in our house, what started with the floors ended with about ten other projects, both big and small. One of the bigger projects was slowly updating our master bedroom, which we actually began to do last year, as we mentioned in our DIY Ikea Rast Hack post where we turned a couple of Ikea Rast chests into our new nightstands.
Another task to tackle to turn the room into more of a neutral shared space was to switch out that pink ticking stripe fabric on the headboard to something that was not only much more neutral, but also went with the vibe of our master bedroom overhaul as a whole. So I searched and searched for fabrics that would be fun to replace it with, and went back and forth about what that would be. And this went on for months, which isn’t out of the norm in our house. I frequently take months to make a decision about a DIY project or major décor decision, and it annoys even me. But finally, an idea popped into my head that I loved and couldn’t shake, and that was to use an inexpensive Mexican blanket with a black and white pattern as my fabric, which would not only mesh perfectly with the other new pieces in the bedroom, but would also give the upholstered panel some soft, beautiful texture which I really enjoy.
So the plan was in place, and reupholstering the plywood panel was really pretty easy. The panel was screwed into the headboard, so we simply unscrewed it, took off the old fabric and replaced it with the blanket. And that would have been that, but as DIY projects often do, it took a turn for the unexpected when we moved the (insanely, ridiculous heavy) headboard back into the bedroom. Once the headboard was back in its rightful place behind the bed, and the bed was completely put back together, we realized that because of the height of the headboard and the height of the bed plus the pillows, you really couldn’t see the upholstered panel, which completely defeats the purpose of upholstering it with any kind of cool fabric.
I know I know… you’re thinking, “why didn’t you notice this before you put the headboard and bed back in place?” As in, wouldn’t we have noticed this when the old fabric was on? It is in the same place, after all. And to that I would say… fair point. And the answer is yes, we probably would have been better served if we had noticed this small fact earlier in this process. But the only answer I can give is that we simply didn’t care about the headboard and its place in the overall décor of our bedroom when it had the old fabric on it, so we didn’t notice that you really couldn’t see the panel with our current mattress’ height (my old mattress, when I started this DIY way back when, was lower).
So now, a new problem presented itself that we subsequently had to figure out how to fix. The solution? After a lot of trial and error and some strange conversations with our friends at Home Depot, we decided that because of how ridiculously heavy this headboard was (there were expletives screamed many times in the process of moving this thing), the most stable and also easily executable solution for giving this thing some additional height would be to attach 6-inch long 4×4 wood posts horizontally as additional feet under each headboard foot, and securing the two together using two metal mending plates per original headboard foot. Now this was absolutely not the most elegant fix for our problem, nor was it the most perfectly-engineered fix, but the extreme weight of the headboard narrowed the field of possible “easy” solutions quite a bit as far as attaching regular feet go.
So we decided that because this would be one of the most sturdy solutions and because you’d really never see these new feet (the bed & bed skirt cover them), elegant didn’t really matter. And we painted the posts and the metal plates white to “match” the rest of the headboard, so we figured that was enough effort on that front.
But my lovely father (notice how I’ve switched from dad to father here), who is an engineer by trade and who doesn’t believe in “easy” solutions if they’re otherwise poorly engineered, wanted to make sure I told all of you that the way we secured the new feet was really pretty tragic and very poorly engineered. So here I am, telling you once again, that our solution wasn’t the most elegant one. My father also wants me to tell all of you that sharing our solution with you is really just giving all of you “bad advice” and that the more sensible solution and the most soundly engineered solution would be to drill holes into the center of the bottom of each foot on the headboard using a “spade” drill bit to make the hole, and drill the same size holes into the top and center of your 4×4 posts (still laid horizontally).
The depth of these holes would be determined by the length of a thick wood dowel, which you would then insert into these holes, securing it with wood glue and as a result, securing your headboard feet and your 4×4 posts perfectly together. That way, you wouldn’t have to see those unsightly metal mending plates, the weight of the headboard would act as a clamp of sorts to secure the pieces together after gluing and the dowel would never splinter, no matter what.
So OK, his solution is a much more soundly engineered solution, but in fairness to us, we DID ask him several times to help us solve this height problem we had, and got the old “yeah I totally have a fix for that” and then got bupkis. So dad, lessons learned all around, yes? You henceforth should not ignore us when we have very important, major life questions like how to add more height to our headboard, and we should never try to engineer something without consulting you first. WHATEVER! And if you’re confused by my description of his solution and need more detail, feel free to shoot my dad a text at 555… Just kidding, dad. We wouldn’t do that to you…. or would we?!
My dad’s disappointment aside, I have to say that I love the result of this DIY upholstered headboard and so does Chris. It’s such a fun fabric and we feel like it fits perfectly with our neutral, but fun bedroom décor. The other thing that I love about this DIY headboard is that if you were going bolder you could use any colorful Mexican blanket you could find and add a bright focal point to the room. There are so many beautiful, brilliant patterns and colors to choose from, and all are soft and relatively inexpensive so it would be really fun to see someone go that route!
Also, we just have to say that we really enjoy sharing our DIY projects with all of you guys here on the blog and all of the kind, beautiful comments you leave us about the triumphs, the failures and the hilarious stories that always seem to come with these projects. We’re certainly not the most seasoned DIYers and our projects are always far from perfect, but we love doing them and they bring us so much joy, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts for jumping in and encouraging us to keep going! It means the world to us and we love how strong and positive the DIY community is in this little corner of the internet. It never ceases to amaze us and we love every minute of it. Cheers!
How To: DIY Upholstered Headboard
1 old headboard
3/4 inch thick plywood (yours will be cut to fit whatever you’re upholstering)
Large piece of foam padding (same note as above – yours should match your plywood dimensions & anywhere from 1″ to 3″ thick will do the trick. You can determine the thickness that fits your headboard.)
1 Mexican blanket
Screws (the length of your screws for securing the upholstered panel onto your headboard will depend on the thickness of the wood of the headboard. They only nneed to be long enough to go through your the wood of your headboard & your plywood, but no longer than that)
2, 6-inch long 4×4 wood posts
4 metal 6-inch mending plates
PREP: For ours, we spray painted the headboard in an open garage that had one free wall for us to tape a large dropcloth to. So we taped one large dropcloth to the wall and one large dropcloth on the ground. We leaned the headboard against the wall and sprayed one side, let that dry and turned the headboard over once dry and spray painted the other side. You could easily do this outside as well and use just one large dropcloth laid on the ground, and lay your headboard flat on that, spray one side, let it dry and flip it over and spray the other side.
1. Sand your entire headboard using a medium-grit sanding block or power sander.
2. Spray paint your headboard the color of your choosing. We used a pure white semi-gloss spray paint for ours.
1. Measure your headboard space. For ours, we were measuring the recessed panel on our headboard.
2. Cut your plywood (or have Home Depot cut it for you) to fit the dimensions of your panel space.
3. Trace the proper panel dimensions onto your foam. Cut your foam piece using an electric kitchen knife if you have one. That’s the cleanest, easiest way to cut foam without buying a special saw.
4. Apply a heavy coat of foam adhesive to your foam piece and very carefully attach it to your plywood. This stuff bonds pretty much immediately which makes placing the foam tricky – hover just above your plywood, and line it up precisely where you want it before setting the foam onto the plywood. This is where having a partner to help comes in handy.
5. Lay your fabric flat on the ground, with whatever side of the fabric you want showing on your headboard facing the ground. Then place your foam-plywood panel in the center of the piece of fabric, with the foam side touching the fabric. In the case of the Mexican blanket, we had to be very precise to make sure that the pattern on the fabric was perfectly centered to our foam-plywood panel.
6. Cut your fabric to fit your foam-plywood panel, leaving two inches of fabric extending out past the plywood.
7. Begin carefully pulling your excess fabric around your foam-plywood panel tightly, and using your staple gun and staples to secure each piece of fabric onto the plywood. If you’re using a heavily patterned piece of fabric like we did here, especially one with straight lines on the pattern, be very careful when pulling. If you pull too much and don’t check the other side of the panel to watch your pattern, you may distort the lines (making them look bowed or bent) on the other side of your upholstered panel, which you’ll be seeing every day. The lesson: pull tightly, but not too tightly.
8. The easiest way to attach your upholstered panel to your headboard is to have a helper. One person can position the upholstered panel where it needs to be on the front of the headboard and hold it in place, while you then drill your screws into the headboard and through the plywood panel in each of the four corners in the back of the headboard, adding more screws in between the corners if necessary along the edges of the panel.
1. Using one 4 x 4 post, cut two 6-inch pieces (we had Home Depot cut these for us from a smaller piece of 4×4 scrap wood post).
2. Sand both 6-inch pieces using a medium grit sanding block.
3. Spray paint your 6-inch pieces and your metal mending plates with the same spray paint you used on your headboard.
4. Place your 6-inch blocks horizontally underneath each of the two headboard feet. Secure one metal mending plate to each side of the blocks and headboard feet using screws. See photo above for reference of what this looks like. Again, my dad wants to be clear that this is a stupid solution, so use at your own peril if your dad’s as high and mighty as mine!
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